How to

How to Draw Dogs in 4 Easy Steps!

Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to draw dogs in just four easy steps? Drawing these lovable creatures may seem challenging, considering the wide variety of dog breeds out there. However, with the right approach, you can fill your sketchbook with adorable dog illustrations. In this article, we will explore a logical and simplified process for drawing dogs, allowing you to capture their unique features and essence.

1. The Stick Dog Skeleton (Perfect for Beginners!)

If you’re new to drawing or want to ensure you start with the correct technique, grab a sheet of tracing paper or greaseproof paper, along with an image of the dog you wish to draw. It’s crucial to capture the entire shape of the dog on paper before diving into the details. Often, we tend to focus on the head first without fully understanding how the entire body fits together. This exercise emphasizes the importance of observing objects and understanding the anatomical structure of dogs. Even without x-ray vision, we can create basic skeletal frameworks on paper to build our sketches.

To start, place the tracing paper over your chosen image. Using only lines, sketch a stick figure or dog skeleton over the image. Imagine the dog has been neatly trimmed, ignoring the fur. Use simple shapes like triangles for paws and an oval for the head, resembling a cross. Your sketch may look a bit peculiar at this stage, but that’s perfectly fine.

Now, lift the tracing paper and carefully analyze the stick shapes. Transcribe the skeleton shape to a clean sheet of paper, referring to the image for guidance. Keep your pencil marks light as you will want to erase these stick lines later. By consistently correlating the lines of the skeleton with the actual image, you’ll become more familiar with your subject, enabling you to sketch dogs more quickly in the future. This stick dog drawing method also helps resolve challenges with perspective and foreshortening, allowing you to better understand the dynamics of lines.

2. Muscle

This stage is where more intermediate sketch artists usually begin. Return to your tracing paper and either trace round shapes around the stick dog or create a new tracing sketch, focusing on capturing the round shapes of the muscles. Keep these shapes basic and oval-based, using ovals, triangles, and slim rectangles only.

Once you have traced the muscles, transfer them to your main sketch, overlaying them onto the skeleton framework. Use minimal strokes to outline the shape of the muscles, as these will eventually be covered with fur as you progress. The goal is to convey movement through the gestural shapes you create. Avoid the temptation to trace everything, as this exercise aims to provide a simple foundation for your dog sketch. With practice, you’ll be able to reproduce this process quickly and effortlessly.

You can now add the oval shape for the face, ears, and other basic facial features to your dog sketch.

3. Faces and Adding Details to Your Dog Drawing

Sketching a dog’s face follows a similar principle to sketching a human face. Each dog breed has its unique facial anatomy, although different from that of humans. During the skeleton and muscle exercise, you would have established the basic cross shape to represent the width and depth of the dog’s face. Additionally, you would have added an oval shape to outline the head.

To add more detail to the dog’s face, refer back to your reference image and utilize the tracing paper as a guide. Break down the face into smaller shapes, focusing on the nose area, the shape above the eyes, and the eye positions. Continuously gauge and check the proportions of your drawing by using a mirror or holding it away from yourself.

Remember to use more shaped lines rather than straight lines, but keep the details minimal and prioritize conveying the overall shape rather than excessive details. Dog faces can vary greatly, even within the same breed. A fun challenge would be to see if you can identify the breed based on how accurately you’ve transcribed the shape of the head. The headline image accompanying this article showcases various dog breeds, all drawn using the techniques described so far.

4. Fur

Adding fur to your dog sketch is a personal and artistic choice, with different artists employing various approaches. For me, it’s an exercise in mark making—the practice of creating different types of marks. When deciding how detailed you want the fur to be, consider whether you want to emphasize the texture, direction, or simply block in the overall color of the fur.

This decision will depend on the type of sketch you’re working on. If you’re zooming in on a dog’s face, for example, you’ll likely want to focus on shading and intricacies, whereas a sketch from a distance may require less detail, relying mostly on tonal color and some jagged hair edges. Personally, I prefer the latter approach as it allows me to sketch within shorter time frames, and dedicating extensive time to individual hairs and fur can be challenging.

Take a separate piece of paper or a new page in your sketchbook and zoom in on the specific area of dog fur you want to portray. Choose your preferred medium, whether it’s shading with a pencil, adding detail with a pen, or conveying fur texture using loose watercolors. Start by marking the direction of the hairs on paper. You’ll quickly realize that drawing many hairs in close proximity can result in a blocky appearance.

To successfully depict fur, create tonality and shading alongside your lines or marks. There are several stages or layers to this process:

  1. Begin by shading the area you want to work on using a light shade, outlining the shape of the fur. Shade in the direction of the fur flow.
  2. Create a sense of three-dimensionality by adding shading to shape the fur. Darken the outer edges of the fur to achieve this effect.
  3. Shade darker on the edges and add any straggling hairs around the new shape, following the direction of the fur flow.
  4. Use a sharp pencil or point to create clumps of hair by adding more strokes to the shape. Avoid rushing and instead, draw a few deliberate strokes around each clump, forming a “V” shape.
  5. Within the fur shape, add short, sharp strokes to indicate individual hair strands. Keep your strokes consistent in direction. The shading in between the strokes represents the shadows and contrast within the fur. Use stronger lines or pencils compared to the initial shading to make the fur stand out from the page.
  6. Depending on the dog’s fur, it may be thicker in the middle and gradually thin out towards the edges, adding to the three-dimensional effect. You can now work on creating deeper tones and colors by filling in the spaces between the hair clumps with darker hues or shading.
  7. For added fluffiness or emphasis on fur, you can add fine hairs around the outlined shape.

Remember, the longer the hair, the more uniform it appears as it lies flat against the dog’s body. Shorter hair tends to form clumps on the page. When focusing on shorter hair, the aforementioned rules still apply, with the addition of more shadow in between the short hairs. The key to sketching fur effectively lies in devoting time to it and practicing different techniques.

I hope this basic introduction to sketching dogs has been helpful to you. Consider watching my live session on the subject and joining my weekly sketch sessions to further enhance your drawing skills. You can find the live session and other resources here. I look forward to seeing you inside the Emily’s Notebook community!

Learn to Draw in 30 Days!

Alexia Young

Hello and welcome to the world of Alexia. I am a passionate and dedicated artist who loves to create beautiful, mesmerizing art for everyone's walls. I believe in the importance of encouraging people to express their creativity and be happy.

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